Andy Enfield will win at USC because, well, he always wins at everything
Andy Enfield led Florida Gulf Coast to an unusual level of success. Why would anybody think he can't do the same at USC?
LOS ANGELES -- I walked into the Galen Center, down a hall and past some offices built for assistants and compliance folks before arriving at a space reserved for Andy Enfield. The door opened, and there he was, tucked back in the corner, Southern California's new and celebrated men's basketball coach, flipping through some random notes on his desk, big iMac computer to his left, giant curtain draped directly in front of him.
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"Look at this," Enfield told me as he pulled the curtain to the side to expose some additional workspace that would soon belong to him. "A day-and-a-half ago the facility guy was in here. I told him, 'This office has a low ceiling, and I don't really have room for recruits' families and staff meetings. Wouldn't it be great to just take this wall down?'"
Everybody agreed it would be great.
And then. ...
"Thirty minutes later I get an email saying, 'Hey, we're taking the wall down,'" Enfield said. "I was like, 'That was pretty quick.' Then seven hours later, they were banging away."
So, yeah, Andy Enfield is already getting things done on the USC campus.
He's tearing down walls.
And it's a nice metaphor for what many believe is to come from the coaching star of last month's NCAA tournament who led Florida Gulf Coast to an improbable run to the Sweet 16 that culminated in multiple job offers, one of which came from USC.
Enfield accepted a six-year contract worth more than $1 million annually three days after Florida eliminated his Eagles, moved to Los Angeles, took residency in a hotel that's a 30-second walk from his office and got to work. He's already hired his staff -- a staff led by two Los Angeles natives with strong West Coast recruiting connections -- and made a headline-grabbing appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
He's provided buzz to a program that traditionally lacks one at all, and I still can't, for the life of me, figure out why anybody thinks this hire wasn't a brilliant move by USC athletic director Pat Haden.
There are few guarantees in college coaching. Let's be clear about that. But Andy Enfield seems like a great bet for USC basketball for the same reasons Hugh Freeze was a great bet for Ole Miss football -- because Enfield has been successful at everything he's ever done, and I think there's something to be said for that.
I made the same point about Freeze when Ole Miss hired him in December 2011, after just one year as a Division I coach. I noted that, yeah, maybe it was a reach, a stretch, whatever. But I told everybody I know -- I live an hour from the Ole Miss campus, so this conversation happened often -- that Freeze's consistent success as a high school football coach, a high school basketball coach, an NAIA coach and a Sun Belt coach should not be discounted.
Best I could tell, the 43-year-old had lots of different experiences and was unusually successful at all of them. So I played the trend and predicted more success. Then Freeze led a bad roster (relative to SEC standards) to a bowl game and a bowl win before signing a heralded recruiting class that ranked among the top 10 nationally.
Freeze has been a home run hire.
I'll play the same trend with Enfield.
Because this 43-year-old has, like Freeze, been successful at everything he's ever done. Enfield was an academic All-American in college. He was an accomplished businessman in the private sector. He was a respected shooting coach in the NBA, a productive assistant in the ACC, and he won 41 games in his first two years as a head coach at a school that has no real business winning 41 games in two years.
And then there's the wife.
The tall and slim and stunning mother of three.
As Enfield told the LA Times, "If you question my recruiting ability, just look at my wife."
Touche, Andy. Touche.
I guess the point I'm trying to make here is that Enfield has been alive more than four decades and consistently crushed opportunities, which is why I was compelled to ask him what he's ever failed at. So I asked him. Enfield, a humble man, responded by talking in circles for the next five minutes. I finally stopped him and just said, "Is the answer, 'Nothing?' You've never failed at anything, have you?"
I told him I meant this not to embarrass him but to compliment him.
"Thank you for saying that," Enfield said. "That's flattering."
It's also true.
And it's also why this USC thing is going to work.
You see, no normal person meets an accomplished model and thinks he can really date her. But Enfield did.
And no normal person takes the Florida Gulf Coast job and thinks he can really go to the Sweet 16. But Enfield did.
And if he could do those things, and do those things quickly after deciding he wanted to, what's to stop him, with that same approach, from succeeding at USC with a run-and-dunk style recruits love?
Answer: Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Enfield has already torn one wall down at USC.
I saw it with my own eyes.
And, from where I'm sitting, that seems like just the start.
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